The Journey Towards Staying
One of the most consequential issues affecting young people is also the most ignored.
Content warning: discussion of mental health and suicide
It was the autumn of 2012, the first snowfall was rapidly approaching, and in the comfort and warmth of my dorm room, I researched. Those around me thought I was diligently studying, working to keep my full scholarship, working to remain an honor student, but I had other plans.
Those plans were finally coming together. I’d labored over handwritten letters, in my best penmanship, for my family and boyfriend. I’d come up with what was the ultimate, fool proof plan.
It was time.
I was going to commit suicide.
Based on CDC data from 2013, thoughts of suicide were highest among adults 18–24. The prior year, an average of 7.4% of undergraduate and graduate students “seriously considered suicide”. There are more than 1,000 suicides on college and university campuses each year.
In the United States, suicide is the second leading cause of death for persons between 15–24, above homicide.
On a national level, across all groups, more people die per year as a result of suicide than homicide.
These are the facts.
In our media there are countless shows covering every aspect of murder — the wide variety of ways we kill each other. They depict the steps that we take as a society to combat these criminals. But, there are very few shows that deal with the issue of mental health and suicide sans stigma (outside of that “very special episode”).
Society has turned a blind eye to a huge problem affecting the youngest among us. Well, that’s until someone commits a mass murder — then we care. We rage. Articles are written, politicians speak. But, time moves on, and the general populace inevitably finds another cause to turn to, another sign to pickup.
1 in 12 United States college students makes a suicide plan. As a country, we’ve discussed the inordinate amount of debt college students can acquire in the process of getting their degree.
Every year, as students begin their search for which college to attend, we give them countless resources and tips to help them pick out the right one, to help them achieve your goals and dreams.
Then, of those who choose to move on to higher education, we help them with a new set of resources and tips — how to do your best in college/university, how to get the most out of their education.
Throughout this process, we very rarely create open, safe spaces to start a dialogue about mental health and suicidal thoughts, or even just the stress of being a student. We rarely discuss the extremely disheartening facts about these tragedies. When we do it always seems to be just a footnote in a larger discussion, never the discussion itself.
We have done a disservice to the young adults in this country by perpetuating that silence.
I’ll admit that I don’t have The Answer. But I do have ideas on steps we could take as a country, as a people, to prevent these unnecessary deaths happening at unacceptable rates.
Awareness is key. Colleges and universities across the United States should hold classes or talks discussing mental health, suicidal thoughts, and the where to seek help on and off campus.
We should never shame those who talk about their mental health or discuss their suicidal thoughts — but instead, commend them for reaching out. Welcome them with open arms, listen to them, and support them. We have to help one another to reach a state of well-being.
We should learn to balance the amount of pressure we place on our students today. The overall emotional health of our college freshmen is at its lowest in 25 years. There are many factors that led to this: lack of financial aid, the widespread use of social media (and the resulting “Fear of Missing Out”), and a start-up culture mindset — a mindset that encourages long hours and hard work at the expense of quality of life. By understanding how these outside issues factor into mental health, we can minimize the pressures burdening our undergrads.
Those considering suicide often reach out in one way or another. Pay attention to the signs they give, and reach out in return. We need to listen. We need to care.
I was going to commit suicide.
I’d already written my letter to him, but I felt like I would be leaving things incomplete if I left before telling my boyfriend to his face. That’s what I called it “leaving” as if I was going on a jaunt to the country and would be back in a few days.
He begged me to go to speak to our Dean of Student Life at my college.
I went. He came with me.
That day I was checked into the mental health ward of the local hospital, I spent two nights there. I got a bill for ~$1000.
I’m still on my journey towards a stable mental health. When faced with great disappointment, especially when I feel as if I brought it upon myself, I self harm. It’s been three years, and still everyday I’m taking another step on my journey to a better future.
I have hope.
I’m staying right here.
I hope you’ll stay with me.
If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, there are resources that can help
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273–8255
Trevor Lifeline: 1–866–488–7386